The long-drawn dramatic search op done by a possibly forty-strong squad of policemen at UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake’s home last Saturday, seeming to search for something they couldn’t exactly put their finger on, and his subsequent arrest later that evening on the charge of possessing a firearm without a valid licence, no doubt, made compelling [...]


Revealed: Phone talk scandal as Ranjangate Tapes explode

Secret recordings blow the lid on Ramanayake’s info network and may land UNP MP in hot water

The long-drawn dramatic search op done by a possibly forty-strong squad of policemen at UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake’s home last Saturday, seeming to search for something they couldn’t exactly put their finger on, and his subsequent arrest later that evening on the charge of possessing a firearm without a valid licence, no doubt, made compelling viewing to a nation slowly getting accustomed to seeing the former regime’s high flyers swiftly brought to the ground on habitual basis.

First, there was the late night drama of Champika Ranawaka, arrested over a traffic offence which happened in 2016. Then, even as he was released on bail, began the search for the missing ex-Minister Rajitha Seneratne who later turned up on a hospital bed with an ailment that required a magisterial visit to approve his arrest for cooking up a cock and bull story and giving air to it at a press conference.  Five days after he was released on bail on December 30, 2019, came the news on January 4 of the first high-profile arrest of the New Year: The surprise capture of heart throb actor, politician and self-appointed ombudsman Ranjan Ramanayake in a post-noon swoop at his hangout home by a police posse, armed with an unspecified search warrant.

The following day, Sunday, he was produced before the Magistrate and was released on bail. Lest he flees the country, a travel ban was also imposed. The revolver and the ammunition turned out to have been issued to him by the government for his protection as an MP. It had been licensed before but the licence had expired.  It was on this ground, the Police said, he was arrested.

Hardly had the Police issued its official statement, there barges in to the scene the government spokesman, Mahindananda Aluthgamage who has a statement to make of his own. He says, ‘The media is carrying reports that Ranjan Ramanayake was taken into custody because he had a gun which did not have a valid licence. That’s a complete lie.’ The Police statement is entirely wrong. ‘We received information that Ranjan Ramanayake has with him at his home, CDs containing recordings with 121,000 conversations he had had with people in the past.’

With Ranjan’s release on bail, UNP supporters were jubilant. It was evident that the Police had made a pig’s breakfast of the arrest and ended up with egg on their faces. It seemed also bad for the government to have bungled the arrest and State Minister for Development Banks Shehan Semasinghe swiftly moved in to control collateral damage. He said, ‘there is a conspiracy behind Ranjan’s arrest to defame the President and it must be inquired who is actually behind it.’

LAUGHS ALL AROUND: Ranjan Ramanayake being manacled after being arrested at his official MP residence

‘There is nobody in our government who was involved in the course of actions taken by the Police and the courts. Do not interpret these actions as political revenges. We have to inquire as to who has given a helping hand to continue these actions.’

‘I repeat with responsibility what is being implemented at present are not the policies and the course of actions of the government. But, if some malpractice has happened or another person has concealed corruption or secret information, it is more important to find out the reason independently about them.’

Mr. Semasinghe need not have worried at the seemingly embarrassing fallout of the government. Out of the blue, a can of worms would open up and soon the shoe would be on the other foot.

The compact disc collection held the key, for it contained dynamite that could explode if exposed to the elements.

Aluthgamage returned on Tuesday morning to the subject he had first mentioned the previous evening, namely, that of the 121,000 conversations Ranjan Ramanayake had secretly recorded and stored on compact discs which he had kept at his home. Out of this collector’s edition which were now in Police custody, Aluthgamage had picked a singularly interesting one the contents of which he divulged to Parliament.

Considering that there were 121,000 phone conversation clips to choose from, it was no mean feat. Even if one conservatively estimated that each of the 121,000 clips was only 3 minutes long, it would still take 252 days for mortal man to listen to them all and separate the wheat from the chaff. Thus what an immense stroke of luck it would have been for Aluthgamage to have hit Bingo and located the clip after his heart from a mountain of 121,000 clips. But, then again, it was nothing but luck that made the Government win the jackpot and made the bonanza, like manna from heaven, land on their lap.

On Tuesday morning, MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage rose from his parliamentary seat to resonate the chamber with a bizarre plot by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake to assassinate him. Before the hearers could ask themselves, ‘but why should Ranil want to assassinate Mahindananda out of all people?’, Mahindananda presented as justification to make such claim the contents of an audio clip found on a compact disc in Ranjan’s closet which had come tumbling down along with another 120,999 similar audio clips when the Police opened the door.

The government MP Mahindananda raising a privilege issue declared, ‘There is a telephone recording between the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and then Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake that had taken place. In it Ranjan Ramanayake tells the Prime Minister that he is practising target shooting to kill Mahindananda Aluthgamage. You have told me to do this and I’m taking steps to do this in the future. The then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says to take the necessary steps to do it. Ranjan Ramanayake clearly seeks the blessings and the consent of the then Prime Minister to shoot me, to assassinate me. The Prime Minister in return gives his consent. All these details are there in his own voice. This is a very grave situation. The Prime Minister and a Deputy Minister were plotting the assassination of an opposition MP.’

Feb 2016 incident

Aluthgamage referred to an incident which had taken place in February 2016. It concerned a war of words between himself and Ranjan Ramanayake over an incident which occurred at Ranjan’s official MP residence at Madiwala. A few days after that incident, another MP living in the same compound reported the sound of a gunshot coming from the vicinity of Ranjan Ramanayake’s residence.

The question was asked in Parliament on 21st June 2016 from the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe regarding this incident, who replies that he had been told that Ranjan was practising for a new movie and the gun had accidentally misfired.

Aluthgamage said, ‘Honourable Speaker you may be able to remember the incident where at the MP’s official residence in Madiwala, Ranjan Ramanayake is engaged in target practice with his firearm. A privileged question is asked in the House by MP Pathmakumara. I have with me the reply the then Prime Minister gave the House. He says that Ranjan is training to shoot. He tells Ranjan Ramanayake you tell the Police that ‘I accidentally fired the gun’. Now it is the Prime Minister who is giving instructions to Ranjan Ramanayake. He is the one who is telling how to rectify the mistake Ranjan had made while training in arms to kill Mahindananda Aluthgamage. Ramanayake is heard telling the Prime Minister that the former IGP had saved him thanks to the intervention of PM Wickremesinghe. What is the meaning of this, Mr. Speaker?’

Aluthgamage further said: ‘Such foolish acts were to be expected of someone like Ramanayake. But, it was the country’s Prime Minister who is heard plotting the assassination of an Opposition MP and encouraging Ramanayake to commit a crime. Ranjan Ramanayake does foolish things to gain public attention. But, it is totally unacceptable for the Prime Minister to encourage crimes. In fact, he has given instructions to Ramanayake to assassinate me. It is clearly stated in the telephone recording. What is the meaning of this?’

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in response tell the House, ‘I am not a conspirator. When I came to know this I made a statement in Parliament. This is in the Hansard. The CDs were taken over by the police from Ranjan Ramanayake’s residence in Madiwela. Therefore, the Speaker could ask the police to get hold of the CDs and if anyone has been involved in such an incident, then he could let the House know.’

So did the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe actually plan with Ranjan the assassination of Aluthgamage as is claimed by Aluthgamage based on his own interpretation of what the tapes hold? For you to decide for yourself, let’s peruse the transcript of the conversation between Ranjan and Ranil as revealed in the Ranjangate Tape.

It is as follows:

RANIL: Hello

RANJAN: Honorable Prime Minister

RANIL: Whom are you waiting to kill?

RANJAN: Ha, ha… Thank you for defending me, Sir. It is because I have not practised in a long time that I practised today.

RANIL: Here, here don’ go to kill people, I say.

RANJAN: I went and practised a little bit because Mahindananda has to be shot, no sir. After that I spoke to the IGP. He told me to say that there was a misfire when I was checking my official gun in the morning. Then I went and made a complaint that there was a misfire and that is why this happened.

RANIL: No I said that you were practising, but never mind.

RANJAN: I saw on TV that you said, Sir that I was practising.

RANIL: No you say, that you had this out to clean it, not to shoot when there was a misfire. You say something like that.

RANJAN: Ok, ok sir. Anyway I am going for shooting classes now, I am for the game now. Must somehow frighten them and do this. You can’t make them sir. Ok, ok sir then I will say like that, that’s okay no sir?

RANIL: Yes, yes you say that you were aiming and that it misfired.

RANJAN: Thank you, thank you sir for defending me.

So what do you make of it? Does it reveal an assassination plot? Does it show the whole affair was treated in jest or sarcasm by Ranil’s opening line ‘whom are you waiting to kill now?’ But whichever way one looks at it, whatever the levity of its two actors may have been, the gravity of this recording seeps in when one realises that it forced the five times Prime Minister of Lanka to rise in Parliament and respond to the accusation with a statement that he is not a conspirator, that he did not plot to assassinate an Opposition member of Parliament.

Ranjan Ramanayake had, for long, led a one-man crusade against corruption. He has been brave enough to expose corruption on both sides of the House. All his efforts in this regard, have been saluted by right-minded people. It has also earned him the enmity of those exposed by his actions.

But this time, has he bitten off more than he can chew? Has the clink in his armour, now silenced with this kink in his mindset to record phone conversations and to store them all, numbering over 120,000 calls on CDs for his future private listening pleasure. Had he taped his own monologues it would have been understandable. But these were calls he made to and received from people in highly placed positions who passed on sensitive information to help him in his campaign to expose corruption and bring those guilty before the bar of justice. These were people who trusted him implicitly, who placed at risk their jobs, their occupations, their lives and even put their families at risk to provide him with an endless source of ammunition to fire at will and make him a hero.

People who did all this and more did it in utmost good faith never thinking that Ranjan Ramanayake was secretly recording every word of what they said and worse, storing them on CDs that could go missing or could be stolen and used for blackmailing purposes or could be impounded by the relevant authorities and could be used for legal purposes. Never in the field of gathering sensitive information in Lanka, it may be said, has one man put so many at so much risk with just one shot of madness to hear his recorded ego’s voice over and over again.

But it was not only his conversation with UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe that he secretly recorded thereby landing the former Prime Minister in a soup having to tell Parliament and the nation that he is not the sort of person who was given to the habit of secretly planning the killings of his opposition members. There were many others whose confidences he betrayed and who will now face an uncertain future.

For instance, Ex DIG Shani Abeysekera who was in charge of investigations into high profile killings. He had many conversations with Ranjan often giving a ball by ball by commentary on the state of play in some of the cases he was investigating. He freely gave the information not knowing that he was being secretly recorded by Ranjan. Soon after his conversation became public, he was immediately interdicted.

There were judges, there were lawyers, there were police officers, there were politicians, there were many from all walks of life who fell for his glib talk and as a result of his indiscretion suffer.

One is the case of a lady Judge who pleaded with him to use his influence to obtain her elevation to the Appeal Court before facing retirement in December that year. It was the same Judge who had delivered the judgment in the Duminda Silva case which she mentioned as if it was some sort of qualification for higher office. This has led to calls by Duminda Silva supporters to quash his conviction on the basis the judgment was biased.

Udaya Gammanpila has already started the ball rolling in this regard by stating that cases investigated by former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera and court orders were given by High Court Judge Padmini Ranawaka should be reviewed by the Chief Magistrate to ensure justice is done. Referring to the alleged telephone conversation between the SSP and MP Ranjan Ramanayake in relation to the court case against Duminda Silva, Gammanpila said it was clear proof that the aforementioned court order was manipulated by politicians and investigating officers. He also did not fail to say how fortunate it was that Ranjan had taped the conversations since it provided solid proof of interference in the judicial system.

In other conversations with senior police officers, Ranjan is recorded as saying to them, ‘You can put Johnston in and also Namal, if possible’. In another conversation with reference to the Gammanpila fraud case, he tells the investigative officer, ‘Why didn’t you tell about the Australian before. We could have organised some anonymous calls to him threatening him not to come here so that he would then make a complaint of it’. In these instances, the tapes reveal, he casts himself as a director of a movie set giving instructions from his director’s chair at home, how the script he has written should be acted out.

In fact Ranjan Ramanayake himself said on January 7, ‘I was inspired by the movie MAFIA and I used different tactics to extract different information from some sources’.

Messenger boy

In another instance, he is in the position of a messenger boy running out an errand for the former Bribery Commissioner Dilrukshi Dias Wickremesinghe. He is tasked with the job of meeting the Bribery Commissioner who succeeded Dilrukshi, Sarath Jayamanne and to ask him a legal question whether a tape recording can be used as direct evidence. In the course of the conversation Dilrukshi turns pally pally and in the midst of talking about Ranjan’s ‘service’ to women in need admits to him that the thing she regrets most in her life is the decision she took to resign as Bribery Chief. She says if she hadn’t resigned and had continued as Bribery Chief, she would have stopped filing action against anyone for one and a half years then, she says, ‘Like a hen laying multiple eggs in a row, I would have filed hundred cases against them on one single day’. Today she might regard her greatest regret to be talking to Ranjan on the phone and babbling her heart out.

Then of course, there are the many calls he made to actresses, to his girlfriends, to prostitutes and to suppliers of prostitutes. All recorded religiously on tape revealing his sexual proclivities and his predilections.

And the few tapes that have come out in the open, it is said, are only the tip of the iceberg. There are 120,900 odd secret conversational clips waiting to surface. The mind boggles to think what more indiscretions they will reveal.

In a bid to prevent the rest of the clips going public UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake filed a motion at the Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court requesting an order to be issued restraining the contents of the tapes where conversations between the MP and some others had been recorded being made public. The case is to be heard again on January 17.

The Ranjangate Tapes having shaken the social plum tree now threatens the judicial oak. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka rose to protect it and called upon the Chief Justice to inquire into the grave situation. In a statement issued on January 9, the Bar Association President said, ‘The media has recently reported about telephone conversations between several members of the judiciary and a Member of Parliament. The conversations contained in these tapes refer to the promotions in the judicial system, pending cases, discussions on arrests to be made and matters relevant to cases where judgments were about to be delivered… We at the BASL, see this as an issue which has to be addressed immediately. Any attempt to bypass or postpone resolving this issue would result in a further erosion of public confidence of the judicial system.’

The statement also then called upon the Chief Justice to ‘immediately look into this grave situation and take strong remedial steps to arrest situations of this nature taking place again’.

The Chief Justice did not tarry. On Friday the 10th, the Judicial Service Commission which comprises Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, Justice Buweneka Aluvihare and Justice Sisira J. de Abrew, directed its Secretary H. S. Somaratne to call for explanations from the present and former members of the judiciary whose telephone conversations with UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake are now in public domain and also directed him to gather all information in public domain in this regard.

The odds certainly look stacked against Ranjan Ramanayake. The Prime Minister and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed his displeasure over it as did the ex-President Maithripala Sirisena who slammed it and said that UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake had done an illegal and utterly disgraceful thing. The government MPs urge President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to probe the incident. State Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said, ‘a member of Parliament had done irreparable damage to the pillars of democracy for political expediency or his stupidity’.

‘There is no doubt that the people have lost confidence in the judiciary because of this exposure. It also lay bare how the politicians of the so called yahapalana government used not only the police but even the judiciary to take revenge on opposition politicians. Ranjan Ramanayake has used sitting High Court judges to meet their political ends by instructing judges on who must be punished and who must be let off the hook. This is unacceptable,’ he said.

Meanwhile, it is reported that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will seek legal advice on appointing a special committee to probe the leaked telephone recordings. Even the UNP is said to conduct its own probe into the incident.

But as the storm blows Ranjan Ramanayake remains unshaken. Defiant to the end he says ‘My battle and my target is to bring the corrupt, the drug peddlers, the thieves and the murderers before the Courts. The methods I used may be unconventional, they may be unethical, they may be illegal but I had to use such tactics to get at the truth’.

“I had to talk to many parties and people from different backgrounds including thieves, officers of CID, FCID, and Bribery Commission, beggars, prostitutes, girls and Judges. I stand by my informants. Shani Abeysekara is an impartial and one of the efficient CID officers who apprehended the ‘Royal Park’ murderer. Shani still has no proper house unlike Anura Senanayake. My struggle could be unethical but how could one wage a good fight with crooks? When we clean up dirty drains, we also get mud in our clothes. I also found from a girl about the MPs who use cocaine. The method I use to get information could be unorthodox, but the benefits are eventually to the people. One day I shall be called the WikiLeaks founder Assange of Lanka,” he said proudly.

In his defence he says ‘I have no capacity or the capability to influence a Judge to reverse a court order or to give a biased verdict. I didn’t call asking for favours for my private cases in court. It was a five-Judge bench which gave the judgment and delivered the death sentence on Duminda Silva. How could I influence a case which has been going on for years? There were four dead bodies in that incident. People know what happened. I called former President Sirisena and IGP Pujith Jayasundara and provided police security to the child of one Judge who was subject to threats. Hadn’t I done that, another Sarath Ambepitiya incident could have occurred.’

When the police raided Ranjan Rmanayake’s home on Saturday night on a Moby Dick whale hunting expedition it was a whopper that fell into the government’s lap as the catch of the year. With 120,000 more conversation clips awaiting to see the light of publicity the Ranjangate Tapes is a sure fire box office hit. An audio saga set to run and run.

Ranjan Ramanayake is the stuff of a Greek tragi-comedy. Where the hero’s downfall is brought by one tragic flaw: In Ranjan’s case: Narcissism.


Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.